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Earth Observatory Blogs

The New UN Climate Report in One Sentence

Published 10/19/2018 in Earth Matters   In October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released yet another sobering report about the planetary disruption happening because of all the carbon human activity puts into the atmosphere. Many parts of the world are already seeing rising sea levels, hotter temperatures, more extreme precipitation and droughts, more acidic oceans, and faster rates of extinctions, the scientists said. And without dramatic reductions in carbon emissions to keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, the problems are going to get far worse. In just one sentence, Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, captured the essence of the report.... read more ❯

Ten Things to Know About Terra as the Long-Lived Satellite Surpasses 100,000 Orbits

Published 10/12/2018 in Earth Matters
If there was ever a satellite that deserves an award for longevity, it's Terra. Designed for a mission of 6 years (or 30,000 orbits), the bus-sized spacecraft continues to cruise 705 kilometers (438 miles) above Earth's surface nearly 19 years after launch. The spacecraft officially surpassed 100,000 orbits on October 6, 2018. To celebrate, here are ten things to know about the intrepid Earth-observing satellite. Click on each image to find out more. 1. Terra had to be designed from scratch. Unlike many of the smaller satellites that preceded it, engineers couldn't riff off of an existing design.   2. The bus-sized spacecraft... read more ❯

First Photons from ICESat-2

Published 10/5/2018 in Earth Matters
The successful launch of a satellite is an exciting step for the scientists and engineers who have spent years dedicated to a mission. But there are still many more boxes to be checked, and anticipation builds as a satellite’s instruments are turned on and they produce what scientists call “first light” -- the first time a satellite opens its “eyes” and delivers preliminary images or data. After the successful... read more ❯

New Tools to Boost Access to NASA Earth Science Data

Published 10/1/2018 in Earth Matters
NASA has funded five new projects to develop tools and technology to make the agency’s massive Earth science datasets more accessible and user-friendly. Wake up. Turn on laptop. Start processing airborne data of the Adirondack forests in New York. Make Coffee. Eat Breakfast. Fasten the open laptop’s seatbelt in the passenger seat as it continues to crunch numbers. Drive to work. That used to be Sara Lubkin’s morning routine... read more ❯

Walking on Venezuela’s Last Glacier

Published 9/27/2018 in Earth Matters
The retreat of Humboldt Glacier—Venezuela’s last patch of perennial ice—means that the country could soon be glacier-free. We featured the glacier in August 2018 as an Image of the Day showing how it changed between 1988 and 2015. Satellite images can tell you a lot about a glacier, but direct measurements by people on the ground provide a unique, important perspective, especially for glaciers as small as Humboldt. Carsten Braun, a scientist at Westfield State University, last surveyed the glacier in 2015. He talked about what it was like to stand on Venezuela’s last glacier. The Operational Land... read more ❯
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